Open burn, detonation likely to end at Clean Harbors Colfax under new LDEQ permit

Open burn and detonation are likely to end at Clean Harbors Colfax under a new LDEQ permit.
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 5:54 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 15, 2023 at 5:55 PM CDT
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COLFAX, La. (KALB) - The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has released a preliminary draft of a permit that would stop the open burning and open detonation (OB/OD) of hazardous waste at the Clean Harbors Colfax (CHC) facility.

Clean Harbors Colfax is the only facility in the country that uses OB/OD practices to dispose of hazardous waste, including carcinogenic chemicals and explosives. Residents of Colfax and others in Grant Parish have long complained of health issues from silt and pollution falling on the community from CHC.

In 2022, CHC applied for a renewed operating permit, which would allow CHC to construct a ‘closed-burn unit’ and continue operating. Closed-burn units filter smoke and byproducts before being released into the atmosphere as more than 99% clean air. Those units are the industry standard. Yet, the original permit renewal would still allow 10% of CHC’s hazardous waste to be disposed of via OB/OD.

On March 15, LDEQ released a preliminary draft of the permit with its acceptable terms that CHC must meet in order to continue operating. Those terms include completely stopping OB/OD of any waste at the facility 180 days after the final permit is completed, and all waste must be disposed of via a contained burn chamber. Although the draft is not a final decision, residents who have voiced their disapproval of the OB/OD are excited that it could possibly come to an end.

“I’m very excited about this it’s very good news,” said Brenda Vallee, President of the Central Louisiana Coalition for Clean Air and Healthy Environment. “It’s been a long time coming and I’d like to thank the many people who have helped, no way I could name them all as its an extensive list. I’m happy, the people are happy, we will feel safer.”

State Senator for District 27 Jay Luneau has spoken out against CHC and the OB/OD practice since 2016. He shared his thoughts on LDEQ’s preliminary draft of the permit.

“It’s a win for the community, it’s a win for Grant Parish and it’s a win for the state of Louisiana and our citizens here,” said Senator Luneau. “We’re enforcing the rules that we have in place and laws that were passed. We’re saying to these folks like Clean Harbors ‘if you’re going to come into our state and do this then you’re going to abide by the rules.”

This draft of the permit is open to public comment until May 1, at which point the comments will be taken into consideration before LDEQ makes a final decision.


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